The Future of Work: 5 Trends That Will Shape 2022

Coming off the heels of COVID-19’s arrival in 2020, this past year has seen foundational shifts when it comes to how we work. While 2020 was spent figuring things out on the fly, 2021 was about building support for the unknown. And as we continue living in one of the biggest disruptors of our time, we can expect things to be in flux. But there are good reasons to be optimistic - particularly in the world of work.

Companies have been outfitting their team members with the tech (software and hardware) needed to do their jobs, facilitating and encouraging interpersonal dynamics that boost mental health and personal wellbeing, and adjusting hiring practices to accommodate geography and work style. As we look forward to the year ahead, we consulted some of Staples’ Work From Anywhere Advisory Council members to share their predictions for the biggest trends we’ll see in 2022.

1. Happy employees, happy workplace

Isolation, whether alone or with family, created unforeseen issues when it came to productivity and mental health. In 2022, businesses will take a more comprehensive view of health, with an increased focus on mental health, says Dr. Gillian Mandich, a happiness researcher and the founder of The International Happiness Institute of Health Science Research.

“Employers will provide increased mental health resources in employee benefit packages, fitness reimbursements or paid gym memberships, subscriptions to wellness and therapy apps, meditation rooms, and nap pods,” she says.

Moving forward, Mandich also predicts that there will be increased company-supported community stewardship, such as providing community service time, paid time off in exchange for volunteering, or volunteering as a group.

2. The home office will live on — but optimized

The past year was spent finessing and finagling our existing home spaces into workable office environments. As we head into a year of more remote and hybrid work, these spaces will continue to be optimized. “Some companies have been offering stipends, but I expect this to be more pervasive as work from home is fully entrenched,” says Clare Kumar, a productivity coach and author.

Work from home essentials including noise-cancelling headphones and an ergo-conscious task chair will continue to make a difference in 2022 for both employees and employers to be comfortable with remote work.

3. Remote work isn’t going anywhere

According to John P. Trougakos; Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour & HR Management, Department of Management, University of Toronto Scarborough; a growing number of potential employees will seek and expect flexible modes of working such as hybrid work and four-day work weeks.

The conversation around work is about satisfaction. Work life balance is not only envied but required. And the ability as an employee to make one's own schedule is what will become more than a nice-to-have in 2022.

“We hear of The Great Resignation...which I think reflects an inherent need for A Great Redesign,” says Kumar. “Flexibility and a new level of autonomy are now expectations which leaders can only ignore at their peril.”

4. Levelling up with microlearning and upskilling

Investing in the skill development of employees is imperative to not only their success, but the company’s. Microlearning and upskills focus on narrow fields of learning that enhance an existing skill set, rather than teach an entirely new disciple. It’s what keeps employees and an organization current, and what helps keep everyone engaged.

Mandich agrees that focusing on professional development opportunities in 2022 will be key to increasing talent retention and productivity. With multiple online learning programs — from Masterclass to Coursera — as well as talks and one-off workshops like TED and Staples Spotlight, the opportunity for micro learning is aplenty.

5. Privacy and cybersecurity will be in the spotlight

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw the disruption of Zoom meetings as trolls infiltrated the platform before the company increased its security protocols. Moving into the third year of COVID and remote work, there remain concerns around keeping information confidential and proprietary information private.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) create a space in which employees collaborate remotely, risky software can be firewalled, and is the most effective way to safeguard the work teams do. As for possible print privacy issues, personal shredders will become part of work-from-home packages for employees to make sure nothing is compromised from a confidentiality perspective.

In 2022, businesses will be well-equipped with the learnings brought on by the past two years. And if these experiences have taught us anything, it’s that agility and empathy are key to success.

By Staples Canada

February 01, 2022